Betty Duffy

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

If you like your blog posts more polished and definitive, don't read this one

My editorial ran this morning, and the paper picked up the story to turn it into a feature. Due to a string of circumstances set in motion, the zoning board canceled the zoning meeting until further notice. A victory, for the time being.

As I’ve been in sort of a man’s world lately, talking to editor, zoning board, and wily businessman, I found this little note sort of interesting in Harper’s mag the other night:

From responses to a survey by the British Psychological Society in which psychologists were asked if there was “one nagging thing” they didn’t understand about themselves.:

David Buss of the University of Texas answered, “One example is my failure at affective forecasting, such as believing that I will be happy for a long time after publishing a new book, when in fact the happiness dissipates more quickly than anticipated. Another is my succumbing to the male sexual overperception bias, misperceiving a woman’s friendliness as sexual interest.”

I definitely fail at affective forecasting. Having my name in the local paper does not give me a very good feeling. I guess I didn’t really think that it would make me happy when I wrote it, but it’s weird how I’ve lived so much of my life wanting to see my name in print. And it’s always my letters to the editor that end up making the cut, not my poems, my stories, my book-length manuscript. It’s sort of lame to be just another person with an opinion. But that’s what I am.

The other note, this sexual overperception bias, is something I’ve been wondering about for awhile. I haven’t been in the work force since I married and had kids, and before that I never really thought much about appropriate levels of friendliness with the opposite sex. When a woman shakes a man’s hand, is she supposed to look him in the eye?

You can’t really stand up to a threatened law suit by lowering the eyes and acting modest. There is something about making a firm point that requires all the muscle and vibrato that my sex has to offer. And yet, I’m not offering sex at all. At least, I don’t think I am—just saying I have it, and he can’t have it, so there. And I should be clear--this is all done with posture and eye-contact. Possibly the only reason I'm even aware of it, is that I tend to have a more slumped and averted carriage in my day to day life.

But then there are those other friendly interactions where I’m not thinking about sex at all, old guys at Church, kids’ friends’ dads. I smile when I talk—can’t help it. Could be fair to say I even flirt a little with the old guys. But it’s because I’m not sexually interested that I’ve never questioned this friendly banter. Could I have led Jerry McQ to believe that I have a more prurient interest?

Anyway, I hate to sign off for Christmas on this note, so maybe I’m not signing off. But if I am, I wish anyone reading this a blessed Christmas.


Anonymous said...

God bless you. Merry Christmas.


Anne said...

I am with you in the wanting to see my name in print thing. I hate that! I wish that desire would just go away and leave me alone.

Merry Christmas to you!

Peter and Nancy said...

I just read your previous post -- gorgeous. I'm so glad you had your moments of silence and awe. Merry Christmas!

Kate said...

You definitely can't stand up by acting modest. I've been in business-type situations before where the man I was dealing with suddenly and inexplicably turned on some kind of man-power, taking the business casual, you might say, right out of the interaction. The aggression is so unexpected that you just get taken aback, you lose your footing in the debate, and often walk away the loser. And then when thinking about it later, you feel almost violated! Anyway, I'm not sure what equivalent power women have, but I say use it! Even if it does amount to using his sexual overperception to throw him off balance, judo-style.

Darwin said...

Honestly, I wouldn't take the study results all that seriously. Unless you're trying hard to give a certain impression, it's not your responsibility if people deceive themselves about their interactions with you.

Just interact honestly and leave people to draw what conclusions they will. Those of us who are not total jerks are perfectly successfully in dealing with women on an equal basis so long as they act level-headed and project "gal pal" rather than "up for grabs".

(And if a man seems to be clearly getting the wrong impression, wink and then increase your demands until he catches on.)

Marie said...

I used to believe and defend vehemently the idea of male friends, coworkers, being very possible and even favorable. I was one of those women that enjoyed hanging out with men more than other women. The girl stuff got old.

Then I put some tread on the tires, and realized that over and over again what I called friendship men looked at as "opportunity". My last run at it was with a boss, I was overweight and married and he was married and we talked about his marriage, but the issues still came up. I wound up quitting the job in part because I hadn't drawn the line at the start and it was too late to draw it then. Found out he left his wife for the woman who took my place.

So, yes, I think it's complicated. It's hard to look strong, energetic, vibrant, anything positive and not look like you are trying to be attractive. To some degree, that's just tough. But it's something to be aware of.

Of course, looking mincing can look like flirting too. . . .